Taiwan's Future: Sustaining Peace and Prosperity
President of the Legislative Yuan Wang Jin-pyng; Governor-General of the Solomon Islands Sir Frank Kabui and Madame Kabui; Vice President of Honduras Ricardo Antonio Álvarez Arias and Madame Álvarez; Vice President of Paraguay Juan Eudes Afara and Madame Afara; Deputy Prime Minister of Saint Christopher and Nevis Shawn Richards; Deputy Prime Minister of Swaziland Paul Dlamini; Visiting foreign delegates, Ambassadors, and Representatives to the Republic of China; Vice President Wu Den-yih; Former Vice President Lien Chan; Former Vice President Vincent Siew; Presidents of the Five Yuan; Leaders of political parties; Distinguished guests; Representatives of the overseas compatriot community; Fellow countrymen; Members of the media and all of you watching on television:
I. Profound significance of our National Day; considerable results achieved in the past seven years
Today is our 104th National Day. So let's all join together in wishing the Republic of China a happy birthday, with many more to come!
I'm very pleased to see that the leaders of the main political parties are all here for today's National Day ceremony. I hope that means we all identify with, and support the Republic of China, regardless of political affiliation.
This year's National Day has great significance, as it coincides with the 70th anniversary of the ROC's victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan, and Taiwan's retrocession. Seventy years ago under the leadership of the Nationalist Government, the people of the ROC, military and civilian, defeated a formidable enemy, saving the nation and recovering Taiwan, and making a major contribution to the Allied victory in World War II. So today, as we celebrate our National Day, let us not forget the sacrifices of our forefathers over the past 120 years, including the courageous Taiwanese heroes who opposed Japanese colonial rule and fought in the War of Resistance. Their efforts paved the way for the freedom, security, and prosperity that we enjoy in Taiwan today.
Over the past seven years, the government has made every effort to create a brighter future for Taiwan. Nevertheless, some have voiced their dissatisfaction, and there have been some misunderstandings. So here, today, I would like to set the record straight.
Over the past seven years, we have defended Taiwan's freedom and democracy. In terms of political rights and civil liberties, US-based Freedom House rates Taiwan as a free country, and counts us among the ranks of advanced nations.
Over the past seven years, we have also been strong advocates for social justice. In terms of gender equality, using the United Nations' definition and statistical methodology, Taiwan ranks among the top five countries in the world. While there's still a gap between rich and poor, our income distribution continues to improve. From a record-high of 6.39 in 2001, our household income disparity ratio fell to 6.05 last year. Our personal income disparity ratio has also fallen to 3.98, the lowest in 14 years. We have already implemented a "feedback tax" that will distribute the tax burden more equitably, and moved from a full-credit imputation tax to a partial (50%) credit imputation tax. Those moves will improve income distribution and put the government on a more sound financial footing. We are also about to implement a consolidated housing and land tax system to achieve residential justice. These are all major reforms. The government has also provided nearly NT$640 billion in preferential mortgages, NT$1.6 billion in interest subsidies to 200,000 homebuyers, and NT$8.1 billion in rent subsidies to more than 220,000 households. If you include other programs, the government has provided a total of NT$44 billion, the highest amount in history, and 16 times more than seven years ago. Six-hundred and seventy thousand households have benefitted, 22 times more than seven years ago.
Over the past seven years, we have actively promoted social welfare programs. We initiated a subsidy program to encourage people to have more children, providing NT$30.5 billion to 340,000 young parents on unpaid parental leave. As a result, over 210,000 children were born in Taiwan last year, the second-highest number in the past decade. Since eligibility requirements for subsidy programs were relaxed, the number of underprivileged citizens receiving assistance has also increased from 260,000 to more than 700,000. Our world-class, second-generation National Health Insurance system has been launched, which has stabilized its financial situation. For the majority, insurance fees have not increased. And the number of people whose insurance was suspended due to non-payment of premiums has also decreased from nearly 700,000 in 2007 to less than 40,000 today. So overall, we've instituted robust assistance programs to help those who are less fortunate. Our national pension and labor pension systems have been operating for six years, and the Legislative Yuan has passed the Long-term Care Services Act. A draft of the Long-term Care Insurance Act has also been submitted to the Legislative Yuan for review, providing more comprehensive coverage to give our senior citizens a sense of security in their golden years.
Over the past seven years, we've also created a safer environment where people can live and work in peace. Taiwan's public safety environment is excellent, ranked No. 2 in the world, winning acclaim from the international community. The number of criminal offences has decreased by almost 40%, while the clearance rate has gone up by 11 percentage points. Fatalities resulting from driving under the influence of alcohol have dropped by 70%. Financial losses through fraud have fallen by 80%. The suicide rate has plummeted, and suicide is no longer among the top 10 causes of death. Last year the number of traffic deaths hit a 20-year low. And in terms of human trafficking prevention, Taiwan has been ranked by the US Department of State among first-tier countries for six consecutive years.
Over the past seven years, the government has devoted extensive resources to developing renewable energy. Since the Renewable Energy Development Act was implemented in 2009, the government has promoted policies such as the "Million Solar Rooftop PVs" project that calls for solar panel installations sufficient to provide the energy equivalent to one million rooftop installations. We've also advocated the "Thousand Wind Turbines Promotion" that aims to construct 1,000 land and sea-based wind turbines. As a result, Taiwan has 65 times more installed solar power capacity than we did five years ago, and generates 53 times more solar power; we have 1.7 times more installed wind power capacity, and generate 2.7 times more energy using that method. These developments give us a firm foundation for our evolution towards a green-energy, low-carbon society. But these renewable energy sources are still relatively unstable, so they can't give us a steady base load power source. So the government must continue to seek the most suitable energy mix for Taiwan, based on the goals of saving energy and reducing carbon emissions. Since the Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction and Management Act was passed in June of this year, Taiwan is fully aligned with global efforts.
Over the past seven years, we have been devoted to revitalizing Taiwan's economy. In the World Competitiveness Yearbook published by the Switzerland-based International Institute for Management Development, Taiwan's average ranking for the past seven years has been 11.5, our best performance in the past two decades. In July of this year, the US-based Global Finance Magazine ranked Taiwan 17th in terms of per-capita income, calculated on a purchasing power parity basis. That put us ahead of Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, and Korea. Taiwan's minimum wage has been raised in five consecutive years, increasing by almost 16%. Real wages rose 2.36% last year, and approximately 4.4% in the first half of this year, the highest increases among the Four Asian Tigers. At the same time, the unemployment rate fell to a 15-year low of 3.73%. Consumer prices have been relatively stable, and are the lowest among the Four Asian Tigers. And in the 2014 World Misery Index, Taiwan had the fourth-lowest score among 108 countries evaluated.
To respond to current economic conditions, and considering international industry development trends as well as Taiwan's export-oriented economy, we've accelerated promotion of a new, innovation-driven economic model. Based on the Internet of Things, and integrating cloud computing, big data, and e-commerce applications, our Productivity 4.0 initiative will open up new export opportunities centered around system integration and commercial services, upgrading domestic industries and transforming Taiwan's economy.
II. Widespread support for cross-strait peace; expansion of international space
Over the past seven years, we have promoted the peaceful development of cross-strait relations. No longer a flashpoint in East Asia, the Taiwan Strait has been transformed into an avenue of peace, winning wide acclaim within the international community. In Taiwan, a broad consensus has coalesced around maintaining the status quo. In fact, the political leaders here today, regardless of political affiliation, have all voiced support for preserving the status quo. That kind of common support is quite rare. But that support shows the government's cross-strait policy of the past seven years is not biased towards mainland China while selling out Taiwan. Nor does it undermine our sovereignty. In fact, maintaining the status quo has become mainstream public opinion.
Over the past seven years, Taiwan and mainland China have signed 23 cooperation agreements. Ministers from both sides in charge of cross-strait affairs have met five times, and addressed each other by their formal titles. People from mainland China have made more than 14 million visits to Taiwan, including nearly four million in 2014 alone, growing more than 10-fold. The number of mainland Chinese students in Taiwan has increased 40-fold, from 823 to about 33,000. And since the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) was signed, US$2.5 billion in tariffs have been eliminated. Our exports to the mainland have increased, and small and medium-sized enterprises account for half of the companies benefiting from that trend. For the first time ever in our agricultural trade with mainland China, we enjoy a surplus, which continues to grow each year. But at the same time, Taiwan's dependence on the mainland market has also been reduced thanks to effective export market diversification. The situation in the Taiwan Strait is now more peaceful and prosperous than it has ever been in the 66 years since the two sides came under separate governance. That's a complete reversal from the state of affairs in the period prior to 2008, which was marked by conflict and antagonism.
Over the past seven years, our cross-strait endeavors have also had an impact on international relations, and our efforts as a peacemaker and provider of humanitarian aid have come to fruition. We proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative in 2012, and the South China Sea Peace Initiative in 2015. We also concluded a fisheries agreement with Japan, effectively ending a 40-year fisheries dispute regarding the Diaoyutai Islands. We yielded absolutely nothing in terms of sovereignty while making significant progress on fishing rights. Meanwhile, the ROC and the Philippines also reached consensus on maritime law enforcement procedures that preclude the use of force, and include an advance notification mechanism and prompt release of detained vessels and crew members. From Haiti to Japan, from the Philippines to Syria, from West Africa to the Caribbean, from Nepal to El Salvador, and from Iraq to Guatemala, we have provided humanitarian assistance in the form of material and monetary donations, as well as various services. We have delivered aid wherever major disasters have occurred, earning heartfelt gratitude from the people in countries receiving aid, as well as admiration from the international community.
My fellow countrymen, as our improved relations with the United States show, improvements in cross-strait relations have been a key factor in creating a more welcoming international environment over the past seven years. The two sides of the Taiwan Strait are no longer engaged in vicious diplomatic competition. We have risen above the checkbook diplomacy that tarnished our image in the international community. This is because our new, innovative thinking has allowed us to handle the two sets of relations—cross-strait relations and international relations—at the same time to create a new era of viable diplomacy. Greater stability in cross-strait relations has also allowed us to promote our international aid policy wherein the purpose must be legitimate, the process must be lawful, and the implementation must be effective. And this is how we earn the most respect and recognition from the international community, a virtuous cycle that creates a win-win situation that benefits one and all.
After a 38-year hiatus, for seven consecutive years Taiwan has participated in the World Health Assembly under an appropriate name, and with formal status. We were represented by official delegates at the ministerial level and accorded equal treatment and direct contact. We also attended the Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for the first time in 42 years, and acceded to the Agreement on Government Procurement under the framework of the World Trade Organization. These achievements were previously unattainable. In 2010 we also signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with mainland China. Since 2011, we've concluded 25 agreements with Japan, including a Taiwan-Japan Bilateral Investment Arrangement. In March of 2013 we resumed negotiations with the United States under TIFA, the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement. Also in 2013, we signed an economic cooperation agreement with New Zealand in July, ANZTEC, and an economic partnership pact with Singapore in November, ASTEP. All of these developments were important breakthroughs. In the future, we will seek to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), negotiations for which were recently completed, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), to accelerate our participation in regional economic integration.
Over the past seven years, the Republic of China has cultivated a much improved international image, and we're welcomed in countries around the world. Between 1997 and 2007, the year before I assumed office, only 54 countries and territories granted ROC nationals visa-waiver, landing-visa, or other visa privileges. Today, 99 more jurisdictions grant us these privileges, for a total of 153. That kind of increase is unprecedented. Taiwan has also become a more popular destination for overseas tourists. Visitor arrivals reached 9.91 million last year, 2.6 times more than in 2008 when I took office, the second-highest growth rate in the world. Those visitors generated tourism revenue totaling NT$400 billion. Again, these achievements are all unprecedented. Seven years ago, our cross-strait ties and international relations were caught in a vicious cycle, but we've turned it into a virtuous cycle! So today, the majority of people in Taiwan want to maintain the status quo. What status quo? The status quo that sustains the virtuous cycle!
III. Challenge of maintaining cross-strait status quo; hope for continuation of current policy
So we've achieved good results in cross-strait relations. But can we maintain that status quo going forward? To be honest, I'm concerned. The current status quo didn't just drop out of the sky. It can't be taken for granted. To preserve that status quo, we have to uphold certain principles. If we stray from those principles, the status quo will change. Then we might face the same problems we had over seven years ago, when cross-strait relations were at a standstill, and international relations took a turn for the worse.
Here are five principles that have helped maintain the cross-strait status quo over the past seven years.
First, under the framework of the ROC Constitution, we've maintained a cross-strait status quo defined by three principles: no unification, no independence, and no use of force. This is the "Taiwan Consensus," which opinion polls tell us is supported by almost 80% of the public.
Second, based on the 1992 Consensus of "one China, respective interpretations," we have promoted peaceful cross-strait development. It was Taiwan that proposed the 1992 Consensus, which was accepted by mainland China. It's a cross-strait consensus, endorsed by over 50% of the public.
Third, in our interaction with the mainland, we put Taiwan first, for the benefit of the people.
Fourth, in our negotiations with mainland China, our priorities are to address urgent matters before non-urgent matters, easy issues before difficult issues, and economic matters before political matters.
Fifth, our interactions with the mainland are based on equality, dignity, and reciprocity.
Among these principles, number two, the 1992 Consensus of "one China, respective interpretations" is the most important. The 23 years since the 1992 Consensus was formulated have shown that if we abide by that consensus, cross-strait relations flourish. If we diverge from it, relations will deteriorate. And if we oppose it, there will be turmoil in the Taiwan Strait. The 1992 Consensus is based on the ROC Constitution. So when we refer to "one China," of course we mean the Republic of China—not "two Chinas," not "one China, one Taiwan," and not "Taiwan independence." In the past seven years, the cross-strait policy we have promoted, based on the 1992 Consensus, has effectively safeguarded Taiwan's dignity, advanced cross-strait collaboration, and successfully created a modus vivendi backed by the majority of people in Taiwan. Without the 1992 Consensus, "maintaining the status quo" is just a slogan—empty words that can never become a tangible reality, or help promote peaceful development across the Taiwan Strait.
The Taiwan consensus and cross-strait consensus that I just mentioned are the foundation that allows cross-strait relations and international relations to form a virtuous cycle. If the next ROC president is willing to continue on this path, cross-strait relations will continue to be peaceful and prosperous. In fact, pursuant to Article 48 of the ROC Constitution, no matter who the next president is, the first sentence of the oath of office states: "I do solemnly and sincerely swear before the people of the whole country that I will observe the Constitution." So any ROC president, pursuant to the ROC's Constitution and laws, accepts the 1992 Consensus as a matter of course, because it is rooted in the ROC Constitution. Is there some problem with that?
The mainland authorities recently proposed the concept of "sharing historical materials and coauthoring history books" about events related to the War of Resistance. We're keeping an open mind. We're willing to work together under the principles of equality, reciprocity, open archives, unrestricted access, and no restrictions on research topics. Participation by foreign scholars and experts should also be considered. We believe that if both sides can squarely face the facts of history, we can bring the people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait closer together, and that will benefit the development of cross-strait relations.
My fellow citizens, every year during my two terms in office, the cross-strait situation has become progressively more peaceful and more stable. But today, as we celebrate our National Day, because of my responsibility as the leader of our country, and because I love my country, I'm expressing my deepest concern. If we don't plan carefully for the long term, we will have problems in the short term. On this important occasion, it is my duty to let everyone know what the future may hold for Taiwan, and how we can respond to that future.
Dear compatriots, governing a country is like building a road. We may not make fast progress, but if our direction is correct, our planning is comprehensive, and our foundation is solid, those who follow in our footsteps will move swiftly and decisively along the path we have built. I am confident that as long as Taiwan remains on the right track, our current status quo of peace and prosperity will continue well into the future.
Now, let's all join in proclaiming:
Long live the Republic of China!
Long live Taiwan's democracy!
Thank you very much.